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News of the Weird

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Lead Stories

According to a November Boston Globe story, some fine restaurants in New York and Boston have taken to adding genuine gold flakes to certain dishes. Boston's Riba restaurant recently offered "risotto of summer's golden squashes with leaf of 24-carat gold." Said the owner, "It's so thin and weightless that by the time you eat it, it's gonzo." She added, "There's a feeling of plenty around. People are feeling rich."

In October, Derek Farmer, 42, who served 18 years in prison for the murders of a civil rights activist and a police officer in Dayton, Ohio, passed Ohio's bar exam and was sworn in as a lawyer. Two weeks earlier, Kevin Kapel was denied permission to take the same exam because of insufficient "character and fitness." Kapel's criminal record consists of charges that he stole a girlfriend's cat and once tried to illegally retrieve his car from a mechanic. (Farmer had the support of his presiding judge and two other judges.)

Latest Bra Technology

In July, London art student Kursty Groves told reporters she had developed a prototype "Techno Bra." The lining holds a global positioning system locator, a cell-phone transmitter, and a heart-rate monitor, which detects changes in the heartbeat that are supposedly distinct from those produced by exercise or other benign factors. Also in July an American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery study said that the 15 women who tested a battery-operated vacuum bra that sucks breasts forward reported a 55 percent increase in size on average after ten weeks.

Latest Religious Messages

Tensions are growing in rural Eatonton, Georgia, between the Putnam County sheriff intent on enforcing agricultural zoning laws and the 80 African-American disciples of Chief Black Eagle Malachi York, who has built a religious retreat with shops and 40-foot-high pyramids called Tama-Re: Egypt of the West. York, a convicted felon who says he was born in the galaxy Illyuwn and who invented the group's language, a blend of Arabic and English called Nuwaubic, teaches that a spaceship will land in 2003 and take away only 144,000 chosen people.

According to an October report in the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, a national Christian "lighthouse movement" seeks to pray for every single person in the United States by the end of next year. Among the suggested techniques: praying for the ten households to your left and right and to the five in front, praying for people in telephone directories, and, in rough neighborhoods, "drive-by praying." In late August a convention of spiritual groups met near Dallas to assess how they could best work to meet their goal of exposing every single person on earth to Christianity by the end of next year.

The Wall Street Journal reported in September on efforts by the religious sect the Shakers to recruit new members. In the mid-1800s there were 6,000 members, but since the Shaker philosophy espouses celibacy, there are now only 7, living near New Gloucester, Maine. Though their original philosophy was built on "separation from the world," the Shakers now have a Web site, give musical concerts, and sell CDs.

Police Blotter

Police in Stockton, California, arrested Tina Watts, 28, in June and charged her with cruelty to an animal after she shot a neighbor's dog. She claimed the dog had just bitten her four-year-old son, but she admitted she'd lied after police discovered that the boy's bloody wound was just a bandage she had saturated with ketchup.

Thieves living large: In March thieves stole an entire high school made of prefabricated buildings, along with its security fence, in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. In July thieves stole more than a mile of natural-gas pipeline, weighing 250 tons, near Kotovskoye, Russia. Also in July thieves stole almost every single thing out of a town house in Montreal, including toilet paper on the holder. In August thieves stole an entire neighborhood garden in London's West End.

Two thieves abandoned their rental car in Port of Spain, Trinidad, in May and escaped, leaving a sheep and three goats in the car, allegedly rustled from a farmer. The sheep was wearing a dress, and the goats were clad in shirts, pants, and hats. Police guessed the thieves were trying to make them look like human passengers.

Problems of postmodern police work: Flamboyant cross-dresser Donald Ray Johnson was arrested in Baton Rouge in September on theft charges after police found him hiding in a closet. According to an Associated Press report, Johnson did not resist arrest, but he did ask police if they could wait a couple minutes for him to fix his hair.

Active Seniors

In April, Brose Gearheart, 90, was sentenced in Saugerties, New York, to four years in prison for trafficking in crack cocaine. In June, Paul Faglin, 87, of Rouen, France, was sentenced to ten years in prison for strangling his 83-year-old wife out of jealousy.

In October, J.L. Hunter Roundtree, 88, was arrested and charged with bank robbery in Pensacola. Also in October, in Long Beach, California, driver Warren Collins, 83, critically injured his wife and himself by plunging over an embankment into the Pacific Ocean while doing "doughnuts" in his car to show it off to a prospective buyer.

Recurring Themes

In 1996 News of the Weird reported on a hospital in Kinshasa, Zaire, that was detaining newborn babies and their mothers until their bills were paid. In September Reuters reported that earlier this year an Iranian government hospital in Tehran created a detention cell in the building for patients who have not paid their bills. Staffed by three guards, it houses about two dozen patients a month. Said the hospital's director, "We had no other choice."

Least Competent Criminals

In September, Roland Tough, 22, and five colleagues, convicted of theft in Greater Manchester, England, were given prison sentences ranging from three to six years. The men had burglarized a department store in Walkden, and Tough had commemorated the heist by taking pictures of the gang with the loot. However, Tough later dropped off the film for processing at the very same department store, and employees recognized some of the stolen items.

In the Last Month

A jail warden in Tapachula, Mexico, accidentally fell to his death from the top of a conjugal-visit building as he was spying on a couple.

The year-old investigation of a used-car salesman's murder in Edmonton, Alberta, was stalled when police discovered that the man was hated by too many people to pinpoint a suspect. In Glendale, Arizona, a 40-year-old man who rigged a gun to shoot himself in the head missed, sending a round into his groin. In Kingston, Ontario, a woman serving a life sentence for stomping another woman to death broke down in tears as she told prison authorities how a fellow in-mate had killed her two pet fish. A 270-pound University of Kansas football player got stuck in a Taco Bell drive-through window when he climbed in after a clerk who had screwed up his chalupa order.

Send your weird news to Chuck Shepherd, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Shawn Belschwender.

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